Former KSHB reporter feels ‘vindicated’ by jury verdict that she was wrongfully fired

Lisa Benson
Lisa Benson Facebook

A former Kansas City television news reporter wrote on Facebook this weekend that she feels vindicated after a federal jury verdict found that she was wrongfully fired.

Lisa Benson Cooper, who went by Lisa Benson during her stint as a reporter for KSHB Channel 41, was awarded $201,000 on her claim that the station retaliated against her.

The jury sided with Cooper in finding that she was wrongfully fired for sharing an article on her Facebook page, but sided with the station on the separate claim that she had been denied promotions because of racial discrimination.

“As has been made clear during this trial, KSHB is committed to the highest standards of journalistic and organizational integrity,” Scott McIntyre, an attorney representing the station’s owner, E.W. Scripps, said in a statement. “While the station had hoped for a swift resolution of the claims, we appreciate that the jury affirmed that its actions had nothing to do with race.”

The article Cooper posted was published in The Guardian with the headline “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour.”

Cooper was suspended after several of her white colleagues at KSHB complained about it to management.

Last year, the station cited the posting as one of the reasons it was not renewing her employment contract.

Station management wrote that it saw in the article “broad, unfair characterizations of white women as a group based on their race and gender.”

“Your reporter position requires you to use social media effectively and appropriately and you were trained on the social media policy and reminded of the importance of your special responsibilities as a journalist,” she was told in writing.

Cooper’s attorney, Dennis Egan, said it was just an interesting article that Cooper shared on her personal Facebook page and that she never expressed any type of racial animosity.

“The jury rejected the lies they were telling about her,” Egan said Monday. “She feels she received validation from the jury’s verdict.”

The verdict came late Friday night after a two-week trial in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

Cooper was awarded $26,000 in actual damages and $175,000 in punitive damages instead of the $8 million to $10 million her attorneys asked for.

Egan said Monday that because Cooper prevailed on the claim, she will be able to ask the court to award damages for estimated future lost wages. She can also seek money for her attorneys’ fees and expenses in pursuing the lawsuit.

The attorney for Scripps said, “We are confident that future litigation will continue to reinforce KSHB’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Tony Rizzo covers federal and state courts for The Kansas City Star, where he has been a reporter for more than 30 years. He is a Kansas City native and veteran of the U.S. Army.